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Winter may be back, but area ice remains thin

Ducks and geese enjoy the large area of open water near Slater Park on Lake Okabena Friday afternoon in Worthington. Ice conditions have been suspect most of the winter, a DNR official said Friday.

WORTHINGTON -- Reports of a truck going through the ice and sinking up to its front bumper in Lake Okabena Thursday night serve as a good reminder that the condition of the ice on area lakes isn't safe -- especially this year.

There were no reports of injuries in the incident, which occurred at the Centennial Park boat landing shortly after 7:30 p.m. Another truck was able to latch onto the back of the vehicle and pull its front end from the water.

Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening said it's the first report he's heard of a vehicle breaking through the ice on one of the county's lakes this winter. He credits that to people knowing the quality of the ice isn't great this year.

"The lakes have opened up, froze over and opened up again," he said, adding that most of the traffic he's seen on the ice has been foot traffic or ATVs.

"My recommendation is: Don't be driving any vehicles on the area lakes," Wilkening said.

Ryan Doorenbos, area supervisor at the Windom office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the DNR's position is that ice is never 100 percent safe.

"Ice conditions have been suspect most of the winter," he added.

Doorenbos said there were instances of people or vehicles breaking through the ice this winter, including one report on Round Lake earlier this winter, and another of a man falling through the ice on Cedar Lake in Martin County.

"We've heard sporadic reports of people almost going in or of fish houses partially sunk in," Doorenbos said. "I suspect people around here with (the condition) of our lakes are paying attention. Ice conditions have been suspect most of the winter."

When DNR officials were out a couple of weeks ago to check on ice thickness, Doorenbos said they recorded ranges of 6-inch ice depths to 16.5-inch depths.

"You can have 15 inches on one area of the lake ... and another area it may be open water or just a few inches (thick)," he said. "At this time of year, conditions can drastically change -- the wind can eat away that ice pretty quickly."

Doorenbos said a general rule of thumb is that ice needs to be at least four inches thick for foot traffic, five to six inches thick to support a snowmobile or ATV, eight to 12 inches thick for a light truck or car, and 15 inches thick or more for a large truck.

After the walleye fishing season closes this weekend, foot traffic on the area lakes is expected to decline. March 5 is the last date fishermen can leave their fish houses on the lake overnight.

With that date fast approaching, Doorenbos wants to remind people that they are not supposed to park their fishing houses at public access sites. He also encourages people to be cognizant of changing ice conditions.

"We're at the time of the year where you're getting more light every day," he said. "The sun is at a higher angle and has more power," causing ice to deteriorate more quickly.

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Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer can be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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